Learning About the Roan Ecosystem Analysis Area

Iron Mountain
Carter County , Tennessee
Roan Ecosystem Analysis Area

High elevation spruce-fir forests and balds, rare communities of plants and animals, panoramic views, nationally known trails and rhododendron gardens, and myriad recreational opportunities are just some of the attractions of this area.

A Very Diverse Place

The landscape in the Roan Analysis Area varies from some of the highest elevations on the Cherokee National Forest with open balds to rich, tree-filled coves and slopes. The area offers the Appalachian Trail, beautiful scenery, a high diversity of plants and animals, picnic areas, and a long cultural history.

The Scioto Ecosystem Management Cluster spans the mountain slopes between Unicoi, Johnson City, and Elizabethton. The ecosystems in the Scioto area range from the rich riparian forest of Limestone Cove to the unusually dry streams and forests of Little, Stone and Jenkins Mountains. The area offers picnicking, fishing, hunting, and a rich cultural history. Little Mountain and Stone Mountain sit at the foot of Unaka Mountain, providing cascading mountain scenery from I-26 and Pinnacle Tower.

Studying the Roan Ecosystem (Vicinity Map)

Planners and managers in Cherokee National Forest are investigating all of the resources and potential management opportunities in the public lands of the Roan Analysis Area. A comprehensive study of the areas resources is underway.

Fire Resources

Fire has played a major role in maintaining some forest communities across the southern United States, including the Southern Appalachians. Early settlers found Native Americans using fire and adopted the practice themselves to provide better access, improve hunting and to clear under brush. This practice plus destructive wildfires after landscape-scale logging around the turn of the 20 th Century resulted in a policy of exclusion of all fire from the woods. The exclusion of fire with this policy has allowed a build up of fuel and produced a change in some of the vegetation communities. Fire is again being used by managers to reduce hazardous fuels and to provide for effective and beneficial controlled outcomes to fire adaptive mountain vegetative communities.

Plant and Animal Life

The Roan Ecosystem assessment area is the richest and most diverse area on the Cherokee National Forest. Habitats range from the rich riparian corridors to the highest mountain top of the Roan Massif. The area is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, and countless opportunities to enjoy nature are available.

Life on the Land

Life in the Water

Rare Species and Communities

Roads Resources

Roads Analysis

Transportation Map

Scenery Resources


Social and Economic Resources

The Roan Assessment Area is located in Carter County, a mountainous, predominately rural counties in northeastern Tennessee. Like the rest of the Cherokee National Forest, Carter County is part of the Southern Appalachian Physiographic Province and have topography composed mainly of steep slopes and rocky soils which have made this region less hospitable to large-scale farming than adjacent regions. Instead, this topography, combined with a temperate climate, originally primarily served as a basis for a hunting and subsistence farming economy. This was the lifestyle of Native Americas for most of their occupation of the area prior to Euro-American settlement and, with the significant addition of livestock grazing and slash-and-burn agriculture performed in the steeper uplands, it was the dominant lifestyle of Euro-American settlers from the early 19 th Century well into the 20 th Century. During this period, families were generally self-sufficient and, lacking developed roads and a cash agricultural economy, except for livestock, there was little commerce with the world beyond the community. As a result, the individual family farm, kin-related groups, and the immediate community were the centers of cultural and economic support and activity. Euro-American settlement grew around creeks and river drainages, and agricultural practices were concentrated in small valleys and coves near water. The steeper slopes remained forested only until the limited supply of relatively flat land was depleted, at which point these areas were converted to temporary agricultural use through slash-and-burn farming and/or were converted to pasture. Apart from agricultural bottomlands, forested lands were generally open to hunting, gathering and seasonal burning and livestock grazing by the general population. This pattern of Euro-American land use, however, existed for a period of only two or three generations in the southern Appalachian Mountains and, because of the adverse environmental effects it incurred, was ultimately unsustainable.

While industrialization rapidly overtook most of the eastern United States following the Civil War, the war essentially destroyed the modest development that had occurred in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Recovery in this region, much less development, was further hindered by the lack of a developed transportation system of roads and railroads, the impediment the rugged topography presented to growth, and the destruction of the forest-based agricultural economy resulting from the unregulated commercial logging of the entire region in the early 20 th Century. This situation was only exacerbated for the region, as it was for the entire nation, by the onset of the Great Depression. As a consequence, southern Appalachian residents had far less income, poorer medical care and less formal education than residents of other parts of the nation. Indeed, these conditions were so notable that special efforts were made by public and private organizations to improve living conditions in the Appalachian region. A number of agencies, beginning with the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Economic Development Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created in the Great Depression, and later in the 1960s with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), were specifically created to address poverty and promote development in the region.

During the Great Depression, the construction of an extensive road system and a system of dams that controlled endemic flooding and provided for widespread electrification of the region served to catalyze the growth in the region that occurred after World War II. The creation of this infrastructure resulted in tremendous commercial and industrial growth that has markedly elevated the standard of living. Because of this economic growth, the population of the Southern Appalachian region has not only grown exponentially, it has, as a result, also become more economically diverse, better educated and, since it has attracted people from other regions, more socially and culturally diverse.

Soil and Water

Special Use Resources

Roan Assessment - Special Uses

Existing Condition

As of September 24, 2009 the Roan Project Area has the following Special Use Permits within its boundaries. They are:

#SUP Number Permittee Name Type Permit
#420 EMBARQ Telephone Line
#1058 TVA Eliz-Roan Mt Powerline
#@WAT #246 TVA Eliz-Roan Mt


Desired Condition:

Where possible, locate public, agency, and utility requests for use of National Forest lands on private land. Use of National Forest land by the public, agency, utilities, and outfitter guides is expected to increase in the coming years.